WINNERS of the Senior Champion Herdsman accolade at the SA Junior Heifer Expo each year have always enjoyed their three-month scholarship to North America, seeing the overseas venture as an opportunity for new learning experiences and networking.
And while the past two champions - Dayna Grey in 2019 and 2018 winner Lewis Bruggeman - have had their trips postponed due to COVID-19, neither have sat back dreaming of their delayed venture, instead asserting themselves as key driving forces in SA's livestock scene.
Ms Grey had given no thought to a potential overseas trip before winning the event, and did not even know that a trip was awarded to the overall winner.
"I was in no way trying to win the award. I just wanted to meet people, it's my scene, I've got my cows, and I love being around the young kids and helping them out," she said.
After winning the esteemed accolade, Ms Grey started formulating a trip plan, involving visits to world-renowned livestock events and prominent studs.
"I wanted to get up into Canada and go to Agribition and Farmfair, and then get to the United States and see Schaff Valley Angus and all those bigger ranches too, and I was tinkering with the idea of Texas as well," she said.
Working as Thomas Foods International's livestock assurance coordinator, a position she has held since December 2018, the 21-year-old was also interested in visiting the company's offices in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
It's always been such a dream of mine to win, those three seconds around my name getting announced as the winner is probably the most excitement I've ever felt.
"We were starting the conversation and getting my plan approved, and then COVID-19 popped up and so it's been delayed," she said.
Ms Grey is now hoping to break her trip into two stints - one in November 2021, and another in February 2022 to potentially incorporate the Denver Stock Show into her second visit.
The career of 2018 Senior Champion Herdsman winner Lewis Bruggeman, Wilmington, has moved more towards sheep rather than cattle.
Mr Bruggeman, who is livestock manager at Elders' Port Augusta branch, was supposed to be going on his trip to North America in April and May this year, before COVID-19 indefinitely delayed his trip.
"I had planned to travel within 12 months of winning, but because of work commitments I was unable to do that," he said.
"The Port Augusta region has been in severe drought, so we've been in an ongoing livestock selling process. I should have made it a priority to travel but it's been an awfully tough time to get away from everything."
Mr Bruggeman grew up on a beef cattle property at Mallala, and runs his own black Simmental stud, Glental Partnership. He had hoped to gain an insight into cattle enterprises in the United States during his overseas visit.
"My main interest was to see a lot of feedlot operations over there, I certainly also wanted to go and have a look at beef breeding and seedstock, as well as commercial operations in that north-western corner, so North and South Dakota," he said.
Whenever he does get to travel overseas, it will take a lot for it to be more exciting than realising he was the Senior Champion Herdsman as a 23-year-old, after competing at the expo every year bar two since the age of eight.
"It's always been such a dream of mine to win, those three seconds around my name getting announced as the winner is probably the most excitement I've ever felt," he said.
Dayna delighted by dream job with TFI
WHILE few people ever get to work in their "dream job", Thomas Foods International livestock assurance coordinator Dayna Grey says she is doing just that.
"Writing the Livestock Assurance Program from scratch, and trying to implement something when I didn't have any experience, in a difficult environment where there is so much red tape, certainly has its challenges but it's so fun, and it's an industry I love," she said.
Ms Grey sees herself as a "cattle girl through and through", but she enjoys working with sheep in her role at TFI.
"I think the sheep side has kept me motivated, because I'm one of those people who is always asking 'why don't I know that?' - if I don't know something, I want to find out the answer," she said.
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